Sunday, December 22, 2013


In 1983, my parents moved to Wilmington, NC. The family next door had a girl a year younger than me and then got pregnant with a boy who would be two years younger than my brother. The four of us were practically inseparable.

Then in 1986, a family moved across the street with a girl my age and a boy my brother's age. So I ended up with two "sisters." Our parents coordinated Santa: one year we all got dollhouses (which involved at least one bottle of bourbon and a Masters in engineering to construct, according to our fathers); the next year, all of us got bikes, which we would learn to ride in our circular driveway.

I truly know how lucky I am that my parents still live in the same house that I grew up in and that they are still married to each other and that they still like each other and that they are both still healthy. I know that one day they will downsize and move away, and the number that has been in my cell phone as "home" since the day I got a cell phone 15 years ago will go to someone who has not had AT&T long distance for more than three decades.

My parents never once switched during MCI vs. Sprint (the pin drop years). I wonder if, in their future locale, my parents will even be able to sign up for a phone plan that doesn't have call waiting. (Yes. You still get a busy signal if they are busy. As God intended.)

I guess what I'm saying is that I grew up in a place where not much changed. My childhood centered on reading/writing, playing sports, and exploring the world of our yards with my brother and our friends.

Of all these adopted siblings, I was the oldest (by six weeks), which I'm sure I took to mean that I was the one in charge, and I'm sure no one else was really allowed to question that. I also know that I developed a maternal mentality. None of these qualities have particularly waned through the years. What was "bossy" as a girl became "bitchy" as a teenager and became "leadership" as an adult.

That's how I tell it, anyway.

But my maternal instinct remains. I still feel responsible for other people. I want to "fix" them, like I used to "fix" skinned knees or vases broken from rambunctious behavior or a mistake. After years of therapy, I try really, really hard to not credit/blame others for my feelings or be credited/blamed for theirs.

But some people *do* make me happy. One "sister" came over for dinner tonight. We ended up going to different high schools and drifted apart, but she found me on Facebook a few years ago. So tonight she left her husband in charge of her two boys and showed up ready to eat in a home where she had once enjoyed many years of Nintendo. Daddy poured champagne and chopped up meats that had spent most of the day smoking. Three generations ate together. After dinner, we snuck away and spent hours talking about how parenthood has affected us, how our careers have come to be, how our relationships with our parents have evolved, why God matters, how difficult it is to come home again.

Her parents moved from the neighborhood when we were in college, and then they divorced, so returning to our neighborhood was bittersweet at best for her. As she said goodbye, we stood in my parents' (no longer circular) driveway and stared at her old house, pointing out rooms that had been "ours" and wondering where the new owner(s) sleep or watch TV or eat or cry.

It's like that Miranda Lambert song, The House that Built Me. (Go ahead: judge me for liking terrible country music.) And while I can't fix brokenness, I can start healing.

The house that built me
built me full of love and strength
gave me the ability to observe
gave me insight
gave me a sense of values, inquiry, stability
taught me how to treat others.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


(submitted to United Airlines' Customer Care online portal)

subject line (from the drop down menu): Alliance Flight Experience

To whom it may concern:

I understand that United Airlines is not responsible for the weather, for New York City's heavy air/ground traffic, and/or for Newark's single runway for departures/arrivals.

However. The experience I had flying with you yesterday went from dysfunctional to manic. Rapidly.

I was originally scheduled on flight 4212 on 12/8/2013. Blessedly, this flight was canceled well in advance of my trek from Manhattan, and I was automatically rebooked.

I arrived at EWR on 12/9/2013 to take flight 4292, scheduled to depart at 12:30pm. The first of 10 emails to arrive from United over the course of the day informed me of a delay. (I did not receive an email every time the flight was delayed or the gate changed; that would have increased my inbox by at least 15 more emails.)

I arrived at the designated gate (A25). 20 minutes before we were meant to depart, we had a gate change (A22). Zones 1 and 2 boarded, then unboarded. We were told of a necessary aircraft change. Some of the reasons given: it was too small; for our size/load, it would require between 1 and 3 fuel stops en route; it could not handle the wind.

We were told to board at A20. We boarded. Then the pilot announced that there was an engine leak. We waited to see if it could be repaired. Alas, no. WE ALL UNBOARDED THIS SECOND PLANE and were sent to A23 to await an arriving plane we could borrow.

We boarded this final plane (our 3rd) at this final gate (our 4th), five hours after we were scheduled to do so.

This experience was greatly improved by our crew. John B., our flight attendant, maintained a great sense of humor ("Welcome to flight 4292, nonstop, same-day service!") and offered unlimited alcoholic beverages and snacks for the duration of our flight.

The captains, as frustrated as we, kept us informed and made decisions that made us feel safe. Their honesty earned our trust.

Mechanical failures. Customer service success.

(my initials are EWR. curses.)